Study looks at de­cline in catches

Midwest Times - - NEWS - John Fitzhardinge and Tim Lan­glois (UWA) with two of the ex­per­i­men­tal pots, a de­m­er­sal post-lar­val col­lec­tor on the left and a ju­ve­nile col­lec­tor on the right

Rock lob­ster fish­er­men say they are spend­ing less time work­ing the shal­low waters from Cliff Head to Lee­man.

Don­gara boat­builder John Fitzhardinge said more than 60 com­mer­cial lob­ster boats had sea­son­ally worked there in what had been a very pro­duc­tive fish­ing ground be­fore the turn of the cen­tury.

“Cur­rently very lit­tle of the catch comes from th­ese shal­lows but in­stead (it) now comes from deeper wa­ter,” Mr Fitzhardinge said.

Mr Fitzhardinge has had a close in­volve­ment with the fish­ery for more than 50 years.

He has ob­tained a grant for a three-year project to in­ves­ti­gate the low-lob­ster catches in th­ese waters with three sci­en­tists.

They are UWA’s Tim Lan­glois and Si­mon de Les­tang and Ja­son How from the de­part­ments of Pri­mary In­dus­tries and Re­gional De­vel­op­ment.

Dr Lan­glois has pre­vi­ously worked on the ecol­ogy of south­ern rock lob­ster in New Zealand and in WA and has in­ves­ti­gated the feed­ing pref­er­ences and fer­til­i­sa­tion rates of west­ern rock lob­ster.

“The project aims to quan­tify whether a de­cline in lob­sters has oc­curred in this re­gion and, if so, to in­ves­ti­gate what could be the cause,” Dr Lan­glois said.

“We will use a range of meth­ods to col­lect var­i­ous life stages of lob­sters from post-lar­vae to adults.

“This in­cludes lob­ster pots, de­m­er­sal and pelagic post-lar­val col­lec­tors, ju­ve­nile hides, diver-op­er­ated sur­veys and habi­tat map­ping.”

Dr Lan­glois said the project would also use his­tor­i­cal in­for­ma­tion to de­tect long-term trends in lob­ster abun­dance.

This in­cludes fac­tors such as com­mer­cial catch data, pri­vate catch logs and pho­tos.

He said the team was keen to hear from any­one with ex­pe­ri­ence in those waters and any in­for­ma­tion on changes in habi­tat or lo­cal rock lob­ster pop­u­la­tion.

Peo­ple are en­cour­aged to email him via ti­mothy. lan­glois@uwa.edu.au.

Mr Fitzhardinge asked peo­ple to re­spect the gear that would be set in the shal­lows from just to the north of Cliff Head out to Big Horse­shoe Reef, and in­side Bea­gle Is­lands.

It is to be clearly marked “FWA Re­search” on the top floats.

The project is jointly funded by the West­ern Rock Lob­ster Coun­cil and the Fish­eries Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion and will be led by Dr Lan­glois from the Univer­sity of WA’s Oceans In­sti­tute and School of Bi­o­log­i­cal Sciences, Mr Fitzhardinge of Don­gara Marine, Dr de Les­tang and Dr How of the Depart­ment of Pri­mary In­dus­tries and Re­gional De­vel­op­ment, Fish­eries Divi­sion and the West­ern Rock Lob­ster Coun­cil.

Pic­ture: Terry Lis­si­man

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